Warley

Warley Hospital, Brentwood

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Details
Hospital Name: Warley Hospital
Previous Names: Essex County Lunatic Asylum, Brentwood Mental Hospital
Location: Warley Hill, Brentwood, CM14 5HQ
Principal Architect: H.E Kendall
Layout: Corridor
Status: Converted
Opened: 1852
Closed: 2002
History

The Essex County Asylum (Warley Hospital) was the first County Asylum to be built within Essex.  With the passing of the County Asylums Act in 1845, the Essex County had yet to build an Asylum within their borders.  The Justices of Peace for Essex met in 1846 to discuss the matter of building an Asylum, by 1847 they begun survey land and buy 1848 they had purchased land.  This land purchased was 86 acres of the Brentwood Estate for a total sum of £8000 – apparently it was selected for its sufficient water supply and not its topographical nature.  The Committee placed advertisements for plans for the Asylum, with prizes for the top three designs, the top design was Kendall & Pope of Brunswick Square London.  The tender for contract was awarded to Myers of Lambeth at a total cost of £57,920, rising to a total of £66,000 during construction.  The Foundation stone was laid on the 2nd of October, 1851 with 130 patients being admitted on the 23rd of September 1853.

The building was designed on a corridor plan and of a Tudor style, the buildings occupied an area of 8 acres and were designed with a population capacity of 300.  This capacity was later increased during construction to 450 patients.  The ward blocks were referred to as ‘galleries’ and bore a uniform design, of single rooms, dormitories and day rooms.  The wards were connected by open sided corridors with all services, except the bakehouse & brewery, being incorporated within the main building.

The hospital underwent a number of extensions throughout its lifetime and saw extensions in 1863, 1870, 1888, 1897 and 1936.  The first extension in 1863 consisted of the construction of three country style homes for 65 patients, in 1870 a new block was constructed for 238 female patients to the east of the site.  These additions saw the population rise to 645.  In 1873 a further 30 acres of land was purchased for £5,000 – at this time numbers had risen to 800 and the county was sending patients out to larger asylums around the country.  In 1879 a recreation hall was built at the centre of the original main building.  1888 saw the next major building project, with the construction of an entirely new block seeing the number of beds be increased by approximately 450 beds, bring the total population to nearly 1200 patients.  This new block reverted to the same style plan as the original block, and ignoring the plan of the newer blocks.  With the opening of this block, all the male patients were relocated to it, leaving the main block to house only female patients – at the same time the county brought back its patients from other county asylums.  In 1889, the site saw a new chapel being built as the old one had become inaccessible and too small and was then converted to dormitory.  Improvements continued through until the end of the 19th century, with two new wings and an infirmary being added to the 1870 block.  The original block was also fitted out with two padded cells, at a cost of £86.  By the turn of the century, the population had risen to 1999 patients.

With the opening of Goodmayes and Severalls Asylums in Essex, the overcrowding at Warley ceased somewhat, but was still a problem.  The 20th century saw the mass extension decline with the only major extension being an admission hospital in 1936.  But the improvement work to the hospital did not stop, with new kitchens being opened in 1910 and one year later, the hospital being connected to the National Telephone Network.  The upgrades, as with every type of building, continued on throughout the century.

Post-WWII saw the hospital undergo the same radical changes seen throughout the country, with wards being unlocked and new treatments being offered.  This also saw the population drop to around 1600, and remain steady there for some time.  At the same time, the hospital offered out patient’s services and saw 14,000 patients being treated in the mid-sixties.  After Enoch Powells ‘Water Tower’ Speech, Warley underwent a period of mass change again and saw the number of accommodated patients decrease, through this time it still remained the principal mental hospital in Essex.  By the 1990’s the 1888 block was demolished and converted to a housing estate; the original block finally closed its doors in 2001.  English heritage granted the original site a Conservation Status and has since undergone conversion to luxury flats.

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One response to “Warley”

  1. Val Webster says:

    I trained as an RMN at Warley during the 1980s and it was wonderful. It had its own top-class nursing school and we’d work on the wards a few months then go to school for a few weeks and took the final exam after 3.5 years. It was an exeptional training experience. I lived there at the magnificent nurses home that was very large and stately. Originally the perimeter was seven miles and it had a farm the patients could work in – that was sold before I got there, but we still had lots of land and trees and greenhouses . Patients were free to roam around in complete safety away from society and all its stress and pressure and hatred – they were as happy as anyone could be with a lifelong mental illness, because they were relaxed and felt safe there. They had a cinema, games room with full size snooker table, horticultural therapy, and so much they could participate in if they wanted to. We also taught social skills and cookery and how to cope in society. There was a small chapel. The staff had a social club. There was little need to leave Warley and go into town, because it was pretty much self-contained. It was like a world away from society where everyone could be themselves without fear of rejection or reaction, and that was extremely important for the patients who lived there. It was heartbreaking when government decided community ‘care’ was to replace mental hospitals, because most of those in Warley had been there for decades – some of the old ones had been there since childhood – they are all very mentally ill and incapable of living in society without suffering severe distress, so it was extremely cruel for them to be turfed out of their home into an alien world. I have many fond memories of Warley and of its patients who we got to know very well, because we all kind of lived together there.

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